Category Archives: Feast Days

On Gun Nuts and bulls goring…

candlelight vigil – for one of the 947 mass shootings in the last two years and 214 days?

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Saturday August 24 is the Feast day for Bartholomew the Apostle. Unfortunately, he may best be known for the famous massacre on his feast day in 1572.  There’s more on that and “St. Bart” below, but speaking of massacres (and some recent responses thereto):

I recently read on Facebook that “when Cain killed Abel, God didn’t blame the rock.”  I then Googled the phrase and saw that it came from a “Top NC Republican.”  See Top NC Republican on Mass Shootings: “Cain Killed Abel.”  (And “God didn’t punish the rock,” to which the article writer responded, “It’s so weird how gun violence has nothing to do with guns.”) 

Which sums up the response of “gun nuts,” and with it the need to clarify.

To me a Gun Nut isn’t the guy who thinks the Second Amendment is perfectly valid – including the “well-regulated” part – and goes along with the idea of responsible gun ownership.  A Gun Nut is the guy who refuses to consider even the most trifling, minimal attempt to “maybe, kinda sorta” try to find some way to cut down the number mass shootings plaguing the nation.

So getting back to that “top NC Republican.” Lt. Governor Dan Forest referred to Genesis 4:8, “One day Cain suggested to his brother, ‘Let’s go out into the fields.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.”  Notice there’s nothing about a rock, which doesn’t speak well of Forest’s knowledge of the Bible. (See also the Titian painting below right.  And for another interesting take see “Cain killed Abel with a rock”? … atheism.)

The point?  Forest seemed to say that – according to the Bible – the “powers that be” in this country have no responsibility whatsoever to correct an ongoing problem resulting in frequent, unnecessary death. His take? If a man kills 40 people with an assault weapon, you hold only the man responsible. You don’t look for “cause and effect,” and you don’t even try to find out if even one person’s life could be saved by some reasonable solution.

Which is of course a gross misinterpretation of the Bible.

For one thing, Forest apparently didn’t read far enough.  In Genesis 4:9 – after the murder, shown at right – God asked where Abel was. Cain answered, “I know not.  Am I my brother’s keeper?” To which God said, “Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!”  (Genesis 4:10, to which the Good News Translation adds, “like a voice calling for revenge.”)  Which leads to this question.  If God could hear the voice of one victim “crying out from the ground,” how could He possibly not hear the voices of 3,788 Americans, victims of mass shootings in the last two years, 214 days (plus)(Conservatively-estimated, as of August 20, 2019.)

Which brings us to another Bible take, on how American society as a whole has a God-given duty to end repeat killings of which there has been ample warning.  See Exodus 21:28-29:

If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death…  But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death.

So it may be true that God didn’t “blame the rock” for killing Abel.

But according to the law of Moses – Exodus 21:28-29 – the owner of a bull who keeps killing can’t avoid guilt by saying, “Don’t blame me!  Blame the bull!” According to God’s Word, the owner of a rogue bull is responsible for his failure to keep the second death from happening. (Or the third, or the 3,788th.) As reasonably interpreted, that principle applies to American society as a whole, when it knows the danger of repeated, ongoing mass killing.

On that note, see Dog owner charged with murder after fatal mauling (8/22/19):

The owner of three dogs that fatally mauled 9-year-old Emma Hernandez on Monday has been charged with murder…  Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Thursday that Pierre Cleveland, 33, will face charges of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having a dangerous animal causing death.

That  third charge – having a dangerous animal causing death – goes directly back to Exodus 21:28-29 (It was noted at the hearing that members of Cleveland’s family “cried out in the courtroom when [the] prosecution alleged Cleveland knew his dogs were dangerous.”)

So did the pit bulls themselves – alone – “cause” the fatal mauling?  Or was it a combination, of pit bulls being inherently dangerous and the owner’s failure to “keep the dogs in check?”

Some further notes:  The dogs were set to be euthanized (in accordance with Exodus 21:28), on which note prosecutors argued that Cleveland knew the dogs were dangerous. Yet he left them alone, “despite the dogs allegedly having killed a puppy in Cleveland’s home a week before.” Then too “one of the dogs had also killed multiple puppies on July 29.”

So to repeat:  According to  Exodus 21:28-29, Americans as a group – by and through their elected representatives – can’t escape responsibility by saying “blame the rock!”  Which brings us back to the Feast day for “St.  Bartholomew, also known as Bartholomew the Apostle.*”  As to that famous massacre see St. Bartholomew – and “his” Massacre (8/2017).

More to the point – and as to the Catholic Church’s responsibility for the massacre – here’s what Pope John Paul II said in August of 1997, in Paris, where the massacre took place:

On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day… Christians did things which the Gospel condemns. I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue… Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension. On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity.

So here’s hoping that some day soon we too in America may begin a “fruitful dialogue.”  Like on how to stop the great number of mass shootings that presently plague our nation…

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The Louvre, August 24, 1572: Catherine de’ Medici (in black) considers “her” massacre

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The upper image is courtesy of Mass Shooting – Image Results.  The photo accompanies an article, “Stop blaming the mentally ill for mass shootings.” With a comment by conservative author Ann Coulter: “Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do.” The article noted less than 5 percent of the “120,000 gun-related killings in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people diagnosed with mental illness.”  Instead, people with mental illness were more likely to be victims. “You’re more likely to be attacked by other people, more likely to be shot,” one professor said. “You’re odd. You’re a target.”  Also, mass shootings are most often attributed to things like disgruntled workers or family disputes. “It’s loss of control by people who are extremely angry.”  Finally the article said efforts to link mental illness and violence are “a political strategy to turn attention away from more serious efforts to restrict access to the means of violence – which is guns.”

The black-and-white image to the left of the paragraph “Saturday, August 24” – “Jesus-and-fig-tree” – is courtesy of Jesus, Philip, Nathanael and the Fig Treesacredstory.org.  

The Cain and Abel image is courtesy of Wikipedia:  “Cain and Abel, 16th-century painting by Titian.”

Re:  The number of “recent” mass shootings.  See An update on “Trump’s” mass shootings, from a companion blog, first posted on May 3, 2019, but updated August 20, 2019.  As of 8/20/19 the number of mass shootings in the last “How long has Trump been president” stood at 947.  The definition of mass shooting – a minimum of four victims – led to the calculation of 3,788.

The image at left of the paragraph with “set to be euthanized (in accordance with Exodus 21:28),” is courtesy of Bull Gore – Image Results. Accompanied by an article, “British student escapes death after being gored by killer bull at Pamplona festival.” Thus note that Exodus 21:28 apparently doesn’t apply to injuries resulting from one’s own stupidity. See also Running of the bulls – Wikipedia.

More about St. Bartholomew: This “St. Bart” is generally identified as the Nathanael Jesus saw – in the first chapter of the John’s Gospel – sitting under a fig tree. As to the way he died, one tradition says that during his last missionary journey he was “flayed alive and crucified, head downward.” 

The lower image is courtesy of St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “‘One morning at the gates of the Louvre,’ 19th-century painting by Édouard Debat-Ponsan. Catherine de’ Medici is in black. The scene from Dubois [is] re-imagined.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.  

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

St. Mary, “Virgin,” and more on Jerusalem…

Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

Mary (mother of Jesus) responded to the Holy Spirit’s call “to set out on a mission of charity…”

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Thursday August 15 was the Feast Day of St. Mary the Virgin, as celebrated in the Episcopal Church.   See August 2014’s St. Mary, Mother, and also Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia:

She is identified [as] the mother of Jesus through divine intervention.  Christians hold her son Jesus to be Christ (i.e., the messiah) and God the Son Incarnate.  Mary (Maryam) also has a revered position in Islam, where a whole chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to her, also describing the birth of Jesus. . .   [She] is considered by millions to be the most meritorious saint of the Church.  Christians of the Catholic Church[,] Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as Mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God and the Theotokos, literally “Bearer of God.”

There’s more on Mary in the August 14 post.  Meanwhile, in getting this post ready I found a draft-post on my recent three-week pilgrimage to Israel, starting with my second full day in Jerusalem. (May 13. See too On my first full day in Jerusalem.) But since I’m starting another overseas pilgrimage in under two weeks,* I should probably get this one out of the way.

For starters, we arrived Saturday night and the driver from St. George’s got us quickly through the dreaded Israeli security at Ben Gurion airport.  But then had a tough time finding my lodging on Al-Isfahani Street.  Later, after settling in my new room, at 4:10 that morning I heard what I took to be an explosion.  It was actually a cannon, marking the start of another day of Ramadan.  (The idea is to give people a chance to eat and drink before the all-day fast.)

That Sunday I wandered Jaffa Street and found a great place to eat, the BeerBazaar.

hasmon1About noon Monday I hooked up at the St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House and met up with my fellow course pilgrims. (Including the nine I flew over with.)  Tuesday featured lectures, orientation and a walk to the Pool of Bethesda in the Old City.  On Wednesday we visited the southeast part of the wall around the Old City.  (The “City of David,” from where we could look east across Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives.)  We slithered through Hezekiah’s tunnel – shown at right, it’s very long, dark and damp – and came out at the Pool of Siloam.  Then we visited the Hasmonean tombs.

That afternoon I took off.  The group was scheduled to visit the Holocaust Memorial.  However, I was familiar with that episode of man’s inhumanity to man from my youthful studies in Judaica (Including – in 1969 – considering the Israeli Army as an alternative to the draft.)  So I wandered back to Davidka Square  – and the liquor store I found Sunday.  I got a bottle of Sommelier, for some brandies-and-water back in my room at night.

Thursday May 16 we visited Ein Kerem, the Church of the Visitation and Mary’s spring.  After lunch at the “Tent Restaurant, Beit Sahour,” we visited the Church of the Nativity and St. Jerome’s chapel and tomb, both in Bethlehem.  The church was both packed and crowded.

There we stood a long while, waiting to do a hump-through-a-tunnel extension of the tour.  It was then I noticed a fellow pilgrim in danger of getting stressed out by all the crowds and noise.  So I did a Good-Samaritan thing – kind of – and persuaded him to join me at the garden restaurant next door – and have a prophylactic Taybeh (Palestinian) beer.  I wrote later:

In situations like this you have to pick your battles.  It’s always seemed to me that finding a spiritual “pilgrimage” breakthrough usually comes in relative solitude, not when you’re surrounded and jostled by hordes of hot, sweaty and pushy “fellow travelers.”

walledoffmurraySpeaking of which, the theme of the Visitation to Mary was “Mary responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to set out on a mission of charity.”  But I didn’t see a whole lot of charity in the visit we made at the END of the day.

That is, we ended the day at the Wall of Separation, also known as the “Israeli West Bank barrier.”  And in a bit of sarcasm – or irony – we stopped at the “Walled Off Hotel.”  (Shown above left.  Luckily, the hotel included a bar, where I enjoyed another Taybeh Palestinian beer.)

See Banksy′s hotel with ′the world′s worst view′ opens in Bethlehem, which said this:

“With a play on words on the luxury Waldorf Astoria chain, this place is called the Walled Off Hotel, because it was built almost immediately next to Israel’s separation wall in the Palestinian-ruled city where Jesus Christ was born.”

Which of course would be Bethlehem, where Jesus was born and “God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory” were expressed in Him.

But seeing the Walled-off Hotel in His birthplace, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Later that night I had a first experience doing wash-and-wear clothes in the shower, then taking them to the rooftop terrace to hang them out to dry.  During the day it gets “hot as Gehenna” in Jerusalem, but at night it’s generally quite pleasant.  Cool and breezy, “Up on the Roof…”

Then I had my shot or two of brandy and water.

Later still I did some reflecting on the day, and especially the last visit.  I was tempted to conclude that the road to both freedom and spiritual enlightenment seems to be littered with dumbasses along the way.  But hey, that wouldn’t be Christian…

And for those thinking that my free-time was focused ONLY on swilling beer:  I was also doing a weekly overseas alternate exercise program.  (In what free time we had.)  Specifically, a week’s quota of two hours of yoga (1.86) and four hours of calisthenics (3.8), for a total of five hours and 40 minutes.  Plus 500 half-pushups (making adjustments for being old), and 1,000 (that’s ONE THOUSAND) ab crunches.  So I wasn’t ONLY swilling beer in my spare time…

That covers the Jerusalem visit to Friday, May 17, when we visited the Judean wilderness, the Jordan River and Jericho.  (Modern and ancient Jericho, Tel es-Sultan.”)  I’ll be writing more on my visit to Israel from that point on, but first I have to get ready for my visit to Portugal…

Where hopefully I won’t find any “Walls of Separation…” 

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wallsep1

That look about says it all…

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The upper image is courtesy of Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia.

The Mary’s image at the start of the main text is courtesy of Mary’s Spring Ein Karem – Image Results.

The quote on Jesus, Bethlehem and “Walled-of” is from Deep Significance of the Birth of Jesus Christ.

Re:  “Overseas pilgrimage in under two weeks.”  I fly to Lisbon on August 28.

I took the photograph at the end of the main text.  (“Lower image courtesy of…”)  A fellow St. George’s pilgrim took the photo of the Walled-off Hotel, left of the paragraph beginning, “Speaking of which.”  I also took the photograph of that “Hasmonean tombs” slither-though. 

St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage…”

Camino Portugués – one of many Camino(s) de Santiago – that will be “my next great adventure…”

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Last Thursday, July 25, was the feast day for James, son of Zebedee, one of the Twelve Apostles.  Tradition adds that he was the first apostle to be martyred, some time around 44 A.D.

He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle.  He is also called James the Greater or James the Great to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus.

For more on this James see Wikipedia, or the post St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men (Illustrated at left.)

That post noted that October 23 is the Feast Day for another James, the brother of Jesus.  Which can be confusing.  (Not least of all because there were as many as six or eight “Jameses” in the Bible.)  Again, “James (’10/23′)” and see also “Hola! Buen Camino!”  (From October 2017.)

[I]n case you’re confused – about the number of “Jameses” in the Bible –  there are at least three men named James in the New Testament, and possibly as many as eight.  (See “BIO of Philip and James…”)   In that list, James the Just (“Brother of Jesus”) is listed third.  James the Less – possibly the “son of Alphaeus” – is listed second.  Listed first is St. James the Greater – “for whom the Camino de Santiago* is named,” and who is in fact the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  Which is something I mentioned in my last post, On a pilgrimage in Spain.

Which brings up my next pilgrimage.  In 2017 – and as noted in the paragraph above – my Utah brother and I hiked (and biked) the most popular “Camino,” the French Way (In my case, to Santiago de Compostela from Pamplona. where among other things we drank at the Café Iruna of Ernest Hemingway fame – a “whole ‘nother story.”)  But a month from now – September 2, 2019 – my brother and I will start hiking the 140 or so miles, from Porto “back” up to Santiago.*  Via the Portuguese Way, and this time we’ll be joined by my Utah sister-in-law.

On a related note see Feast of Saint James the Apostle in Spain – timeanddate.com:

Many people in Spain celebrate the life and deeds of James, son of Zebedee, on Saint James’ Day (Santiago Apostol), which is on July 25.  Saint James was one of Jesus’ first disciples.  Some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Map of GaliciaThe article noted that July 25 is a public holiday in “Basque Country, Cantabria, and Galicia, where it’s a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.”  (A side note:  The “autonomous community” – or province – of Galicia, seen at right, is in northwestern Spain, and that’s where Santiago de Compostela lies, as the “provincial” capital.) 

The article added that:  1) according to Christian tradition this James may have traveled to the area now Santiago;  2) this James was beheaded in Judea in 44 CE, but also that 3) his disciples carried his body by sea to Padrón, on the Galician coast.  Then they  buried his body “under what is now the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.”

Which is why it’s popular as a hiking-slash-pilgrimage route.  On a related note, see On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints.  Aside from noting – again – that this “July 25” James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims, the post also cited 2016’s St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts:

The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September…  And in the Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude…”

Another side note:  It’s better to hike the Camino – in Spain or Portugal – during a month like September, as we did in 2017 and will do again this year.  It’s less hot and “touristy.”

See also “On to Jerusalem,” a post about last May’s pilgrimage to Israel:

[A] pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  [Like] hour after hour of butt-numbing, back-aching canoe-paddling[, for days on end.  Or during the 2017 Camino trip where] the chief ordeal was hour after hour of hiking, much of it across the dry and dusty Meseta of northern Spain.  Which meant sore achy feet and blister upon blister…  So the question for the upcoming trip to Jerusalem:  “What part of the trip will help me ‘find a sense of my fragility as a mere human being?’”  And “What part of the trip will be ‘most chastening, and also most liberating?’”

And which are some pretty good questions for my upcoming nine-hour flight to Lisbon, and from there to Porto, where three American pilgrims will hike north to Santiago…

So stay tuned!  I’ll be posting “further bulletins as events warrant!”

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Calvin and Hobbes

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The upper image is courtesy of Portuguese Camino De Santiago – Image Results.  The image is accompanied therein by a page “Camino de Santiago – Portuguese Way,” put up by “REI,” that is, Recreational Equipment, Inc.  See also Camino Portugués – Camino de Santiago.

Re:  On “St. James the Greater.”  As noted in the main text, that post included some regrettable errors about which “James” was involved.  On that note, and according to Wikipedia and other sources, “In the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and Lutheran Church, James, brother of Jesus and martyr is commemorated on October 23.”  But again, the Feast Day for James the Greater is July 25.

On the “Santiago.”  Iago is the Spanish form of the name “James,” itself a variation, a “a modern descendant of Iacobus, the Latin form of the Hebrew name Jacob.  James is a popular name worldwide, but it is most commonly seen in English-speaking populations.”  Other Spanish variations include “Yago” and “Diego.”  Thus the town of “Saint Iago.”  James (name) – Wikipedia.

Re:  Miles from Porto to Santiago.  Google Maps had three routes, with two going through Pontevedra, as we will.  One of the two routes is 134 miles, the other 141.

Re:  John Steinbeck and “sluts.”  The “sluts” at issue were mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in his ground-breaking 1879 work Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.  It was considered a “pioneering classic of outdoor literature,” and it inspired Steinbeck‘s 1962 book, Travels with Charley.

Re:  My last-May trip to Israel.  See On my first full day in Jerusalem, and “Back from three weeks in Israel.”  See also “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem,” for some pre-trip research I did in April.

The lower image is courtesy of James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

On Mary Magdalene – and all those “rules and regulations…”

St. Mary MagdaleneApostle to the Apostles – forgiven despite hersordid reputation…” 

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Tizian 009.jpgNext Monday, July 22, is the feast day for Mary Magdalene.  And as her Collect for the Day says, it was Jesus Christ Himself who “restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection.”  She did, and set an example for us all.

And she did all that despite what was possibly a sordid past – and what was in fact a really lousy reputation.

As to the confusion around that issue, “Mary” was an very common name at the time of Jesus.  This particular Mary was born in Magdala, where her name came from:  “Mary from Magdala,” or Magdalene.  It’s not clear where Magdala is, but most Christian scholars assume it’s “the place the Talmud calls Magdala Nunayya.”  (“Tower of the fishes.”)

I wrote about Mary in Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents,” and Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles.”  The latter noted that Mary’s reputation as a “ho” probably came from a mix-up between Mary from Magdala and the “unnamed sinner who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50.”  (And maybe from male disciples jealous of her showing courage when they didn’t?)

Mary Magdalene, the anointing sinner of Luke, and Mary of Bethany, who in John 11:1-2 also anoints Jesus’ feet, were long regarded as the same person.  Though Mary Magdalene is named in each of the four gospels … none of the clear references to her indicate that she was a prostitute or notable for a sinful way of life, nor link her with Mary of Bethany.

Whatever the answer to that question, it’s clear that Mary Magdalene showed more courage and faith than the original 11 disciples, when push came to shove.  Which is why St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.”  See also Mary of Magdala | FutureChurch:

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity…  Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

mm-he-qiThe one indisputable fact seems to be that Mary Magdalene – seen at right (viaFutureChurch)” – was the first person to see the empty tomb of Jesus.  And she one of the first – if not the first – to see the risen Jesus.  Which may explain why some jealous male followers tried to sully her reputation.

There’s more in that post on Mary, including an explanation of how the word maudlin – a dramatically shortened version of Magdalene – came to mean “tearfully or weakly emotional.”

Then there’s the post Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents,” from last July, 2018.  It was an early post exploring the idea of “conservative” Christians playing it safe, which then led to the conclusion, “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.’”  (Based on the Parable of the talents from a July 2018 DOR, where the “wicked, lazy servant” – given one talent – is the functional equivalent of today’s “conservative Christian,” who feels his job in life is simply to “avoid sin.”) 

Which also brings up a standard conservative – and sometimes “Conservative Christian” – rant that all immigrants must follow all the rules and regulations (Like in a recent response I got on Facebook.)  So one point is this:  Jesus came into the world to save sinners, not those who try to “follow all the rules and regulations.”  (Mark 2:17, and 1st Timothy 1:15.) 

That is, Jesus didn’t come into the world to preach to those people bent on following the letter of the law. (Pharisees and such.)  That was mostly because – as Paul noted in 2d Corinthians 3:6 – “The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.”  In other words, if simply following all rules and regulations was enough, there would have been no need for Jesus to come here in the first place.

(Also, Jesus “cast out seven demons” from Mary, then she and other women supported Him and His disciples “out of their own means.” Luke 8:1-3In a similar way, illegal immigrants – who arguably don’t follow all rules and regulations either – paid some 12 billion dollars into Social Security, but most won’t be able to collect a dime.  Trump’s false claim [about] undocumented immigrants.)

To repeat, in a recent Facebook interaction (with a Wall Supporter) I got the response that he was fine with LEGAL immigrants, as long as they followed “all the rules and regulations.”  Which sent me back to my Bible.  AND what it says about “following rules and regulations.” For example, Romans 3:10 said, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.'” (Citing Psalm 14:3, “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”)

Then of course there’s JOHN 8:7, “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Then too there’s James 2:10, “Whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all.”  And that’s not to mention Deuteronomy 10:19, “You are to love the foreigner, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  (In the Christian Standard Bible, “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.”)

See also Exodus 22:21, “You must not exploit or oppress a foreign resident, for you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  And Exodus 23:9, ““Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”

Not to mention Numbers 15:16, above left:  “The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.”  (Mirrored in Leviticus 24:22, “You are to have the same standard of law for the foreign resident and the native; for I am the LORD your God.”

But the kicker came – I said on Facebook – when Jesus said the standard of justice we use against others is the same standard that He and God will apply to us. (Matthew 7:2.)

All of which is another way of saying if you can’t follow the rules and regulations – and the Bible says you can’t, which is why Jesus came the first place – you can’t reasonably expect “foreigners” to follow them either.  (Especially when they’re fleeing corruption, rape and murder.)

Then too, if you go around demanding that your fellow human beings have to abide by “all the rules and regulations” – and especially when seeking asylum from corruption, rape and murder – you can expect precious little mercy and compassion when your time comes.

For myself, I’m inclined to give all people a break and show some compassion. (While trying to find a fair, humane and reasonable solution to the problem, while not advocating “open borders.”)  That way I can expect a break from God when my time comes.  Because – as Napoleon once said – “Men are moved by two levers only:  fear and self interest.” 

Which is a dang good reason to read the Bible…

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Another man wanting to be “leader for life.”  (But who didn’t have bone spurs…)  

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The upper image is courtesy of Mary Magdalene – Wikipedia.  Caption:  “‘Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena’ (1835) by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov.  In John 20:1–13, Mary Magdalene sees the risen Jesus alone and he tells her ‘Don’t touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my father.'”

The first image in the text is courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penitent_Magdalene_(Titian,_1565).

Re:  “Jesus Christ Himself.”  The allusion is to John C.H. Lee, a “career US Army engineer, who rose to the rank of lieutenant general and commanded the Communications Zone in the European Theater of Operations during World War II.”  As one source put it,The biggest jerk in ETO was Lt. Gen. John C.H. Lee … commander of Services of Supply (SOS)…  Lee was a martinet who had an exalted opinion of himself.  He also had a strong religious fervor (Eisenhower compared him to Cromwell) that struck a wrong note with everyone…  He had what Bradley politely called ‘an unfortunate pomposity’ and was cordially hated.  Officers and men gave him a nickname based on his initials, J.C.H. — Jesus Christ Himself.”  (See World War II Profiteers.)  Note that Wikipedia had a slightly different take.  For example, “A man of strong religious convictions, he urged that African-Americans be integrated into what was then a segregated Army.”  As to his “retirement and honors:” 

Lee was made an honorary member of the French Foreign Legion, the II Polish Corps, the Italian Bersaglieri and several Alpini Regiments.  He was declared an honorary Citizen of Cherbourg in France, and Antwerp and Liege in Belgium, was given the school tie of Cheltenham College in England, and awarded an honorary doctor of law degree…  Lee was an Episcopalian and kept a Bible with him at all times.  [Like George Patton, who was also Episcopalian.]  He declined post-war invitations to serve as a corporate board executive, preferring to devote his life to service.  [Unlike some generals.]  In retirement he spent his last eleven years leading the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, a lay organization of the Episcopal Church, as executive vice president from 1948 to 1950, and then as its president.

Re:  George Patton as Episcopalian.  See On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher.

Re: “Ho.”  The link is to Definition of ho – The Online Slang Dictionary.  It was the only one that offered both  adequate background and was “fit for family consumption.”  Plus it didn’t use “cookies.”

Re:  “Rules and regulations.”  I Googled “immigrants must follow rules” and got 53,600,000 results.

The Numbers 15:16 image is courtesy of Foreigners In That Land Egypt – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Napoleon – Wikipedia.  See also Top 10 Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes | Napoleon, which added, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.  

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

 

On a wedding in Hadley – and John, Peter and Paul…

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist-Caravaggio (1610).jpg

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, meaning you sometimes have to “pay the price…”

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Some two weeks ago or so I got back from three weeks in Israel(A post followed by My first full day in Jerusalem.)  Then right away I had to make a dramatic transition:  From free-wheeling world traveler to “weird uncle of the bride.”  Which is being interpreted:

Town Hall and First Congregational ChurchAfter my adventures in Tel Aviv – getting lost hiking to the train station, taking the wrong train (away from the airport) and going 26 hours without sleep – I had to begin preparing for an 1,100 mile road trip up to Hadley, MA.

There my “favorite niece from Utah” was getting married.

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There will be more on that happy event later, but first…  It’s time for me to remember the main theme of this blog, “exploring the mystical side of Bible reading.”  Which means in large part remembering the particular liturgical feast days, either coming up or just past.  In this case, the feast day for two saints, Peter and Paul, is coming up tomorrow, June 29.  And the feast day for the Nativity of John the Baptist, happened just last Monday, June 24.

For fuller treatments see Nativity of John the Baptist (2015)Peter, Paul – and other “relics” (also from 2015), or John the Baptist, Peter and Paul – 2016.  But here are the highlights:

One key for John the Baptist:  He became that voice crying in the wilderness, as noted in Matthew 3:3:  This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’

http://www.dralionkennels.com/images/newsflash.jpgWhich is another way of saying John the Baptist served as precursorforerunner or advance man for Jesus.  (As in,News Flash:  Jesus is on the way!“)  Or as it says in the Collect for the Day: “your servant John the Baptist … sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior.”

The Collect added that we too should follow John’s example, and “constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake.”  (See Nativity of St. John.)  On the other hand we need to remember that doing that sometimes meaning “paying the price…”

As illustrated in the painting at the top of the page…

http://www.canvasreplicas.com/images/Two%20Scholars%20Disputing%20Peter%20and%20Paul%20Rembrandt%20van%20Rijn.jpgThen Peter, Paul – and other “relics” tells how these two apostles got martyred near the same time, and about the “translation of relics.”  (Which here meant moving – temporarily – “the remains of the two apostles” to keep them from being desecrated.)  But the main point is this:  Even though Peter and Paul came to argue vehemently over certain points of doctrine – as shown at left – they still worked together to spread the Gospel.  Which led to this thought:

Some Christians seem to think they have to be all “nicey-nicey,” all the &%#$ time, with each other and with non-Christians.  But the Feast of Peter and Paul goes to show it’s okay to have differences of opinion, or even “squabble” from time to time…

And that for that matter, it’s okay to argue with God too…

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And now for that “favorite niece from Utah” getting married.  For a fuller treatment of the  1,100-mile road trip by which I got up to that happy event, see On a wedding in Hadley(From my companion blog.)  But again, here are some highlights.

One highlight involves the photo between the main text and notes below, of the wedding rehearsal Friday, June 21.  The father of the bride is practice-walking his daughter down the aisle made by two rows of chairs inside the massive tent in the front yard of the parents of the groom.  Although the bride-to-be’s looking back could be interpreted as having some deep symbolic meaning, that definitely wasn’t the case.  And the “cherub” seen in part just ahead of the father-and-bride belonged to one of the bridesmaids.  (So no hidden meaning there.) 

The Light That FailedBut of course all that was preceded by getting down to work on Thursday.  While the main wedding party worked on “favors,”  I helped by staying out of the way.  (As in “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.”)  And by reading a first (1908) edition of Kipling’s “The Light That Failed.”  (Another version shown at right.) 

But I made up for it on Friday, by helping set up a tent-full of tables and chairs.  Then the wedding rehearsal finally started.  (A good bit after the scheduled 6:00 p.m. start time, but then the happy couple was definitely “not hung up on that deadline thing!”) 

Then came the final preparations, all during the morning and early-afternoon of Saturday, wedding day, June 22.  Then came the count-down:  4:52 p.m. “It shan’t be long now!”  Then the Officiant getting some last-minute instructions, as shown by a photo in the notes below.

And finally – at or about 5:43 p.m. – it became official.  They were married!

And then – It was TIME TO DANCE!

(As shown by a second photo in the notes below.)  

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rehearsalwalk

Wedding rehearsal.  (No “body-language hidden meaning…”)

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The upper image is courtesy of Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, (Wikipedia) by Michelangelo Marisi Caravaggio (1571-1621) “circa” 1621:  “His paintings combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting…”

lastminuteinstructionsThe Wikipedia caption for the Hadley MA image is “Town Hall and First Congregational Church.”  The “Officiant getting some last-minute instructions” photo – which I took – is shown at right. 

The Peter-and-Paul image is courtesy of canvasreplicas/Rembrandt.  See also Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn.

Re:  The “(1908) edition of Kipling’s ‘The Light That Failed.’”  The future in-laws had quite the book collection in their lovely home…

I took the lower-photo image on June 21, 2019.

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dancepicAs noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  But first, my “time to dance” photo-image is shown at left.

Back to the four main themes

The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)

The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind.

For more on these themes, see the end-of-notes for the most recent post…

On Romans 10:9 – and “Salvation for all…”

Flevit super illam“- Jesus wept as He approached Jerusalem, shortly before Palm Sunday

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First a note:  That “salvation for all” thing includes the addendum, “who come to Him.”

Back to the main topic:  Palm Sunday is coming up this weekend.  Easter Sunday comes a week later – on April 21 – and with it the end of Lent.  And of my chance to write up – as part of a Lenten discipline – “a reasoned, careful, blog-post treatise on precisely ‘why I don’t like Donald Trump.'”  (As I hoped in last March 15’s On the Bible’s “dynamic tension.”  That is, a logical reatise without the “fallacy of ad hominem attacks,” or my saying to Trump supporters, “What are you, dumbasses?”)

Which definitely would have been the hard part.

But alas, my busy schedule – including preparing for the upcoming “On to Jerusalem” – precluded doing that treatise.  So I’m back to a main theme of this blog, the Daily Office Readings.  For example, the New Testament reading for Tuesday, April 9, Romans 10:1-13.

‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

That first part (Romans 10:8) goes back to Deuteronomy 30:14, where Moses said, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it.”  Then Romans 10:9 – including the words emphasized – relates back to (for one example) Matthew 10:32:  “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father in heaven.”

And of course there’s good old John 6:37 – a standard feature of the opening blurb, and as illustrated in “Malayalam” at left – “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.”

The point of all this is that the foregoing – and especially Romans 10:9 – gives all real Christians a ready answer to so-called conservative Christians who say or imply that you and I are “going to hell” if we choose not to interpret the Bible in exactly the same way that they do.  (See “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian,'” and – as to the “going to hell card” – The Bible’s “dynamic tension,” on the danger of accusing fellow Christians of “heresy.”)

All you have to say is:  “I’ve confessed with my lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead.  So the Bible says I’m saved.”  (Even – gasp! – a “liberal Christian.”  On that note see There Is Such a Thing as a ‘Liberal’ Christian.  His name was Jesus.)

I’ve written on Romans 10:9 in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other.  That included an added reference to 1st Corinthians 12:3:  “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”  And about that tension between Deuteronomy 19 and Ezekiel 3:

In other words, if I think – or say, perhaps with relish – that someone I don’t like is going to “roast in hell” and he’s not, then I’ve put myself in danger of roasting in hell.  (Per Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)  Of course I don’t particularly care if a “Trump-humping evangelical” roasts in hell for eternity.  But it’s my duty – and my CYA – to warn him of the danger.  (Per Ezekiel 3:16-19.)

And speaking of too-far-right conservative Christians who take “an isolated passage from the Bible out of context(including “Stumpy,” at right):  One of the psalms today is Psalm 127.  Which includes Psalm 127:3-5: “Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.”

I’ve written on that topic is “Bible basics” revisited:

[S]ome Christians become snake handlers. (Like “Stumpy…”)  They do this based on a literal interpretation of Mark 16:18.  In other words, taking an isolated passage from the Bible out of context…  Other Christians work to develop large families – as a way of showing their faith – again based on focusing literally on Psalm 127:3-5, taking that one passage out of context: “Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.”

See Quiverfull – Wikipedia, on the “movement of conservative Christian couples” which sees children as a “blessing from God” and “encourages procreation, abstaining from all forms of birth control (including natural family planning) and sterilization.”

But “Basics” revisited set out an arguably-better approach:  You “could approach the Bible as presenting a plain, common-sense view of some people in the past who have achieved that ‘union with a Higher Power.'”  Such a common-sense approach can lead to an ability to transcend the painful and negative aspects of life, to live with “serenity and inner peace,” and develop a “zest, a fervor and gusto in life plus a much higher ability to function.”

Which means that ideally, one who reads the Bible on a daily basis should not become an intolerant, self-righteous prig.  (Going around telling others how to live.)  Or as Saint Peter said, “Don’t let me hear of your … being a busybody and prying into other people’s affairs…”  Instead, such Bible-Reading on a regular basis should lead to a well-adjusted and open-minded person.  And also one who is tolerant of the inherent weaknesses – including his own – of all people.  In other, a person able to live life “in all its fullness.”

So how do you do all that?  Here’s an answer from one of the great philosophers of our time:

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The upper image is courtesy of Triumphal entry into Jerusalem – Wikipedia.  It included the note:  “In Luke 19:41 as Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he looks at the city and weeps over it (an event known as Flevit super illam in Latin), foretelling the suffering that awaits the city.”  See also Luke 13:34 and Luke 19:42.  Luke 13:34 reads:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.”  Luke 19:42 adds, to the previous verse, “If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace!  But now it is hidden from your eyes.”  See also Flevit super illam – The Collection – Museo Nacional del Prado

The Palm Sunday image is courtesy of Palm Sunday – Image Results.  The image is accompanied by a web article from 2017, “Palm Sunday – How Jesus’ Triumphant entry into Jerusalem turned the world on its head.”  The article is from Christian Today, “the UK’s largest online Christian news provider, with the latest in-depth reports.”  The April 8, 2019 edition included an article, “Brexit and the decline of Britain: lessons from the Old Testament,” which included some interesting reading:

Britain today in its moral and political turbulence is reminiscent of Old Testament Israel in the 11th century BC. That too was a time when there was no guiding consensus and “all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21v25).  But instead of looking to God, of course, Israel demanded a new system of government in the form of a strong man (1 Samuel 8v5) – just as many in Britain are now apparently doing.

The article noted in recent years many countries have opted “for maverick ‘strongmen’ to lead their nations – Erdogan in Turkey;  Putin in Russia;  Berlusconi in Italy;  even Trump, in a way, in America.”  (In a way?)  It then cited polling by the Hansard Society which indicated that “54% of voters would like ‘a strong ruler willing to break the rules.’  Only 23% said they were against such an idea.”

As to the goal for Lent about Donald Trump…  I wrote in The Bible’s “dynamic tension:”

So – for this Lent – I’m going to try mightily to prepare a reasoned, careful, logical blog-post treatise on precisely “why I don’t like Donald Trump.”  (Without resorting to the “fallacy of ad hominem attacks.”)  In other words, I will try – without resorting to name-calling – to present the valid reasons why I think Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate…  Beyond that – for my Lenten discipline this year – I am also going to try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him.  (Without saying, “What are you, dumbasses?”)  And that is definitely going to be the hard part…

Also, the full Daily Office Readings for Tuesday, April 9, are:  “AM Psalm [120], 121, 122, 123; PM Psalm 124, 125, 126, [127], Jeremiah 25:8-17; Romans 10:1-13; [and] John 9:18-41.”

Re:  Deuteronomy, Chapter 30.  Verses 11 through 14 (“The Offer of Life or Death”) read:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you;  it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

The John 6:37 “malayalim” image is courtesy of John 6:37 – Image Results.  Malayalam is a Dravidian language; that is, a “language family spoken mainly in Southern India and parts of Central and Eastern India, as well as in Sri Lanka with small pockets in southwestern Pakistan, southern AfghanistanNepalBangladesh and Bhutan, and overseas in other countries such as MalaysiaPhilippinesIndonesia and Singapore.”  That language is “spoken in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) by the Malayali people, and it is one of 22 scheduled languages of India.”  Which proves the universal appeal of Jesus, to whom all people – including grumpy old white people who should know better – are “infants before God.”  See for example Where do I find the age of accountability in the Bible, which included the example of 2 Samuel 12:21–23, where “David seemed to be saying that he would see his baby son (in heaven), though he could not bring him back.”  Then there’s this:

[T]his is a subject about which we should not be adamant or dogmatic.  God’s applying Christ’s death to those who cannot believe would seem consistent with His love and mercy. It is our position that God applies Christ’s payment for sin to babies and those who are mentally handicapped, since they are not mentally capable of understanding their sinful state and their need for the Savior, but again we cannot be dogmatic.  Of this we are certain: God is loving, holy, merciful, just, and gracious … and He loves children even more than we do. 

The lower image is courtesy of izquotes.com/quote/217824.  See also Charlie Chan (Wikipedia).  The quote is said to have come from Charlie Chan at the Circus, and in the form given.  See Charlie Chan – Wikiquote and Reel Life Wisdom – The Top 10 Wisest Quotes from Charlie Chan.  But I could have sworn that the actual quote was, “Mind like parachute;  work best when open.”

“On to Jerusalem!”

A late-afternoon view of Jerusalem – with the Dome of the Rock, in gold, in the left foreground…

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And speaking of pilgrimages This May I’ll be making such a two-week journey to Jerusalem (As part of a local church group.)  On that note, Kenneth Clark – the noted British “art historian, museum director, and broadcaster” – discussed the origin of such spiritual journeys in his 1969 TV series, Civilisation (The following quotes are from the book version, at pages 40-42.)  

In Chapter 2 – “The Great Thaw” – Clark noted the “sudden reawakening of European civilization in the 12th century.” (That is, the years from 1101 to 1199 or so.)  He said that “great thaw” – the sudden spurt of growth in human development – did not come about from mere idle contemplation.  Instead it came as the result of action:  “a vigorous, violent sense of movement, both physical and intellectual.”

The physical – action – part took the form of pilgrimages; most often to Jerusalem.  That led in turn to the Crusades (“Traditionally, they [the Crusades] took place between 1095 and 1291;” and of course “the most important place of pilgrimage was Jerusalem.”)   But these early pilgrimages were not at all like our “cruises or holidays abroad” today.  For one thing they took a long time; often two or three years.  “For another, they involved real hardship and danger.”

That is, despite efforts to organize (“pilgrims used to go in parties of 7000 at a time”), “elderly abbots and middle-aged widows often died on the way to Jerusalem.”  (Note that our church group requires a doctor’s note from those over 70, saying they “must be able to walk three miles at once at a normal pace” – at least 2-and-a-half miles an hour – “without assistance from others.”)

Another difference:  Today such a pilgrimage is typically “a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs.”  But in those early days, the “point of a pilgrimage was to look at relics.”  (On that note, see 2015’s On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”)

The belief in the “magic” of relics – Clark said – was a product of the Medieval Mind.  “The medieval pilgrim really believed that by contemplating a reliquary containing the head or even the fingers of a saint he would persuade that particular saint to intercede on his behalf with God.”  (Clark cited an example, Saint Foy, a “little girl of who in late Roman times” was put to death for refusing to worship idols, and then was “turned into one herself.”  That is, an idol.*)  

Portrait of Napoleon in his forties, in high-ranking white and dark blue military dress uniform. In the original image He stands amid rich 18th-century furniture laden with papers, and gazes at the viewer. His hair is Brutus style, cropped close but with a short fringe in front, and his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat.In other words, the man with a Medieval Mind believed that by going on a pilgrimage – and in the process venerating relics – he could “get good stuff from God.”  Which is of course the same incentive for many practicing Christians today.  (If not for those of any religion.)   Or as Napoleon put it, “Men are moved by only two things:  fear and self-interest.”

But we digress…  As seen in the links at the right of this page, I’ve devoted a whole category to Pilgrimages(Including – the summer of 2018 – I’m back from my Rideau pilgrimage, and – October 2017 – “Hola! Buen Camino!”) 

On the topic being discussed, the most relevant blog-post is probably On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from September 2016.   That post pointed out that St. James the Greater is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  And it indicated that on a true pilgrimage – usually by and through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – we can “quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.”  And it noted that a true pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

In Back from Rideau, the chief ordeal was hour after hour of butt-numbing, back-aching canoe-paddling.  In Buen Camino the chief ordeal was hour after hour of hiking, much of it across the dry and dusty Meseta of northern Spain.  Which meant sore achy feet and blister upon blister.  (At least for the first 250 miles.  From León, we mountain-biked the remaining 200 miles.  Which just meant different parts of the body got sore, achy and/or blistered.)

So the question for the upcoming trip to Jerusalem:  “What part of the trip will help me ‘find a sense of my fragility as a mere human being?'”  And “What part of the trip will be ‘most chastening, and also most liberating?’”  Or maybe I’ll find somewhere a relic to venerate, and so in turn get some “good stuff from God.”  (Aside from being chastened and liberated…)

On that note: Stay tuned!  There may well be “further bulletins as events warrant!”

Calvin and Hobbes

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On another note, last Monday – March 25 – was the Feast of the Annunciation.  See The Annunciation “gets the ball rolling,” from March 2015.  The full title is the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the post showed how in this case the early Church “figured it backwards.”  That is, they started with the birth of Jesus on December 25, then figured backwards nine months.  Since they said Jesus was born on December 25, He had to have been “conceived” on the previous March 25.  That’s where the Annunciation comes in.

It celebrates “the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation.”  There’s more on the Incarnation in the post, along with how and why the Conception and Annunciation both got to happen on the same day.  Now, about that “getting the ball rolling.”

Technically the liturgical year – the church’s calendar year, illustrated at left – begins with Advent (December 1 or so), and goes through next November.  (When it starts all over again.)  But it could be argued that the liturgical year properly starts with the Annunciation; that is, the first moment when it became obvious that God would intervene on our behalf, by and through the birth, life and death of Jesus.

More to the point, the church year “sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus.”  (It’s not an “arbitrary arrangement of ancient holy days”):

It is an excursion into life from the Christian perspective [and] proposes to help us to year after year immerse ourselves into the sense and substance of the Christian life…   It is an adventure in human growth;  it is an exercise in spiritual ripening.

As noted in the “ball rolling” post, I couldn’t have put it better myself.  Thus in one sense the Church Year does begin with Advent.  On the other hand, you could say that while “technically the liturgical year begins” with Advent, it’s the Annunciation that gets the ball rolling

And speaking of “getting the ball rolling.”  Who knows:  My upcoming adventure in Jerusalem will result in some personal “human growth.”  At the very least it should be:

“An exercise in spiritual ripening…

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St. James the Greater, dressed and accoutred as the quintessential Pilgrim…’

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The upper image is courtesy of Jerusalem – Image Results.  See also Jerusalem – WikipediaNote that the post-title – “On to Jerusalem!” – is an allusion to the Civil War’s famous (or infamous) battle cry, “On to Richmond!”  See the National Park Service’s The Focal Point of the Civil War, and Richmond in the American Civil War – Wikipedia.

I cited Clark’s book in On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down:”

Which is another way of saying that all the people who wrote the Bible had to keep in mind the human limitations of their audience.  They were trying to put incomprehensible things into plain and simple language that even the most obtuse dolt could understand.  Or to paraphrase Sir Kenneth Clark, the people who wrote the Bible had to have the intellectual power to make God comprehensible.

The Kenneth Clark paraphrase is from the hardcover book version of Clark’s Civilisation (TV series). On pages 84-85 of the book, Clark compared the poet Dante with the painter Giotto.  Then on page 85, Clark noted the differences between the two men, beginning with the fact that “their imaginations moved on very different planes.”  But in the film version – and only in the film or TV version – Clark said Dante had  “that heroic contempt for baseness that was to come again in Michelangelo.   Above all, that vision of a heavenly order and the intellectual power to make it comprehensible.”  Which is the phrase that drew my attention…  See also Wikipedia, for more on the TV series.

Clark’s writing about early pilgrimages – especially to Jerusalem – are at pages 40-42 of the book.

Re:  The medieval mind.  The link is to The Medieval Mind: A Meditation:

The latter [people in the Middle Ages] were drenched in mysticism, whereas the contemporary world has been shaped by rationalism so that mystical concepts and experiences have been stripped away except among a small number of people steeped in the religious thought of our Western ancestors…  [Also:]  It can be argued that the decline of pilgrimages is a loss to Christian spiritual life in an age of unbelief and immorality when people have a profound need for spiritual examples.

Re:  Saint Foy, put to death for refusing to worship idols, then “turned into one herself.”  (The “idol” is shown at left.)  Clark wrote that she was “obstinate in the face of reasonable persuasion – a Christian Antigone” – and so was martyred.  But then her relics began to work miracles,” including the restoration of sight to a man who eyes had been gouged out “by a jealous priest.”  As to the little girl whose “relics” were turned into an idol – even though she’d been put to death for refusing to worship idols – “that’s the medieval mind.  They care passionately about the truth, but their sense of evidence was different than ours.” 

Also, the link in the text is to St. Foy’s Golden Reliquary – Conques, France – Atlas Obscura, about the “huge golden reliquary of a testicle smashing saint.”  The article added that “Pilgrims pray to saints for holy intercession in all kinds of problems, but they should be very careful what they ask for when approaching St. Foy, who seems to have a wicked sense of humor.”  That is, “St. Foy developed her reputation for… unusual cures. [Ellipses in the original.]  Notably, when a knight came to her seeking a cure for a herniated scrotum, she, via vision, helpfully suggested that he find a blacksmith willing to smash it with a white-hot hammer.”  See the article for the “rest of the story…” 

Also, re “idol.”  See Idolatry – Wikipedia:  “ldolatry literally means the worship of an ‘idol,’ also known as a worship cult image, in the form of a physical image, such as a statue.  In Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity, Islam and Judaism, idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God.”  Note the subtle difference to the medieval mind, asking the “saint” in question to intercede with God…

Re:  Hiking the Meseta part of the Camino de Santiago:  “Many people avoid the Meseta, catching the bus from Burgos to Leon,” while others – who aren’t so wussified – think that misses the whole point of hiking the Camino.

I borrowed the “further bulletins” cartoon from The Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016.

I borrowed the lower image from St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from 2016.  See also Wikipedia, with full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”  Also, the “sluts” post noted in part:  “Of course the two [pilgrimages] I went on this summer weren’t close to being like going to Jerusalem.  (See Back in the saddle again, again.)  But for next summer – more precisely, September 2017 – my brother and I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago…”  (Can you say foreshadowing?)

 

OMG! Is it time for Lent again?

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent – in the form of a metaphor (by Pieter Bruegel the Elder…)

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It is indeed time for Ash Wednesday and Lent, again.

As noted in The beginning of Lent – 2018, the whole idea of Lent – as a kind of mini-Wandering in the Wilderness – started back in the time of Moses.  That’s when he led the Children of Israel through the original Exodus, as detailed later in Nehemiah, at 9:12-21.  For example, “By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.

Now we don’t have an actual “pillar of cloud” by day, or a “pillar of fire in the night” to light our way.  But we do have the example set by Moses.  Then too, “Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing.  Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”  Which brings up the whole topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by SatanLent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, On Ash Wednesday and Lent, and also Lent 101 – The Upper Room.

So Moses and the Children of Israel wandered in the Wilderness for 40 years, and Jesus did His own wandering, during which He was tempted by Satan.  Thus:  “There is a strong biblical base for fasting, particularly during the 40 days of Lent leading to the celebration of Easter.  Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation, went into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights.”

mardi grasNow, about that “Fight Between Carnival and Lent.”  As Wikipedia noted, the battle between the figures “Carnival” – given a modern-day illustration at left – and Lent “was an important event in community life in early modern Europe.”  Lent was characterized by “enforced abstinence and the concomitant spiritual purification,” but to  good cause.  That is, “in preparation for Easter.”  Which itself is a metaphor, in that Bruegel the Elder‘s painting is “rich in allegories and symbolisms that have been long studied.”  In the end, Lent – and Easter – ultimately triumph.

That is, they triumph over the spectacle of people “guided by a fool, and not by reason” – as symbolized in the painting – along with a burning torch, “symbolic of dispute and destruction.”  (Hmmmm…)  In short, Bruegel‘s painting “is often read as the triumph of Lent, since the figure of Carnival seems to bid farewell with his left hand and his eyes lifted to the sky.”

All of which could well be metaphors for some of what’s going on these days…

Another note from The beginning of Lent – 2018:  The “Christian life itself is a pilgrimage, and the 40 days of Lent can be a kind of dress rehearsal, or ‘full-scale practice.’  (Where it’s important to remember the happy ending.)”  And then there’s this additional side note:

There are actually 46 days of Lent.  That is, 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.  Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.”  But somehow that fact got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the “2002 romantic comedy film.”  That film portrayed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  But as noted, the main character “could have taken Sundays off.”  Which again just goes to show that – sometimes at least:

It pays to read and study the Bible!

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40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

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The upper image is courtesy of the “Fight Between Carnival” link in the Wikipedia article on Lent.  The full caption: “‘The Fight Between Carnival and Lent‘ by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1558–1559).” Note the upper image shows a mere “detail;”  see the whole painting at Wikipedia.

For additional information on the upcoming season – during which I’ll do further posts on the appropriate subjects – see My Lenten meditation and/or On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016.  Or for suggestions, see 10 Things To Give Up For Lent In 2019.

Re:  The “modern-day illustration at left.”  It’s from Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016, which noted Lent is devoted to “prayerpenancerepentance of sins, alms-givingatonement and self-denial.

But that season of self-denial is preceded by “Fat Tuesday.”  That’s the day before Ash Wednesday…  The French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras is now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!”  

Wikipedia added, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.”

The lower image is courtesy of 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) – IMDb.  A side note:  I Googled “film 40 days and 40 nights Sundays off,” to see if any Hollywood types had caught on to the “Sundays off” aspect of Lent.  From what I could see, “Apparently not.”  For more information, see Why Sundays Don’t Count During Lent | Guideposts.

“The LORD is a God of knowledge” – The Presentation, 2019

At the Presentation of Our Lord (February 2) – “Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord Jesus…” 

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Saturday, February 2, is the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:

2017Candlemas.jpgCounting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2.  A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem…

In other words, the day celebrates “an early episode in the life of Jesus,” His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem “in order to officially induct him into Judaism.”  It’s celebrated by many Christian Churches, and is also known as Candlemas(As shown above right.)  

There’s more later, but first a word about one of the Daily Office Readings for this February 2 Feast.  Those readings include 1st Samuel 2:3, “For the LORD is a God of knowledge.”  Which – taken together with Isaiah 27:11 – means that “therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge.”  And that’s a bit of Bible law that may well affect the many today who label anything they disagree with – or that contradicts some cherished beliefs – as “Fake News.”

Which brings up another Daily Office Reading for the Presentation, John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Something to think about…

And which also ties in with the fourth great theme of this blog, citing Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

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Getting back to the February 2 Feast Day, I wrote about it in 2015’s On The Presentation of Our Lord, in 2016’s The Presentation of the Lord – 2016, and 2017’s On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord…”  The 2015 post gave some background on what was involved.

It noted this episode was described in the Luke 2:22–40, which said “Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem … to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth.” They were there “in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15.”

Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) (Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”  Leviticus 12:1–4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas.

Yegorov-Simeon the Righteous.jpgThe 2017 post also expanded on Exodus 13:2.  That’s where God told Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male.”  It also noted “the old-timey, ‘once-prevalent custom of churching new mothers forty days after the birth of a child.’”  That quaint custom came to be called “the churching of Women,” and it started – as far as we can tell – back in the Middle Ages.  Though rarely used today, “that quaint practice took place in ‘the good old days when giving birth was a time of real and great danger for all mothers.”  (As illustrated at left.) 

Fortunately, these days there isn’t such a great need for a blessing “given to mothers after recovery from childbirth,” including “thanksgiving for the woman’s survival of childbirth.”

And finally, the 2017 post pointed out this “First Presentation of Jesus” foreshadowed what might be called the “Second Presentation,” on Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified(As illustrated in the image below.)  “The point being that from the time He was first ‘presented’ at just over a month old, Jesus’ life was one long journey to the Second Presentation.”  (On the eve of His making another ritual sacrifice, one that would literally change history…)

*   *   *   *

Which brings up a more current event.  This very morning I was listening to the audio version of Garry Wills‘ 2008 book, What the Gospels Meant.  In it Wills – this morning – discussed the “Antitheses” in Matthew Chapter 5.  Also the chapter which included The Beatitudes, after which Wills went on to discuss the topic of Murder.  As Wills translated it, “anyone who calls his brother ‘idiot!‘ will be subject to the Sanhedrin.”  (For the offense of de facto murder, according to the interpretation of Jesus.)  And of course that Sanhedrin included “the final authority on Jewish law, and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death.”

Which brings up my experience with Facebook, where a lot of people these days are calling a lot of other people “idiots,” and worse, for the simple fact of disagreeing with them, or holding a view contrary to their own “cherished beliefs.”  (See also ad hominem- Wikipedia.)

As another aside, the president of the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ time was CaiaphasHe was the one who accused Jesus of blasphemy, “a crime punishable by death under Jewish law.”  And thus of him it was said, “Not interested in the truth, Caiaphas preferred to destroy this challenge [of Jesus] to his beliefs instead of supporting it.”  In other words, if he lived today Caiaphas would probably say the Good News presented by Jesus was just “More Fake News.”

Which led me to Matthew 5:22 itself: “If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

Something else to think about…

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Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri (1).jpg

This could be called the “Second Presentation” – Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified

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The upper image is courtesy of Simeon And Anna Recognize The Lord Jesus – Image Results.  See also Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus – Rembrandt, and the “Simeon” link in the Wikipedia article on the Presentation, or at “Rembrandtonline.”  For another interpretation, see “Simeon the Godreceiver by Alexei Egorov. 1830–40s.”

Re:  “The Lord is a God of Knowledge.”  See Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

A God of knowledge. — The Hebrew words are placed thus:  A God of knowledge is the Lord, The Talmud quaintly comments here as follows: — Rabbi Ami says:  “Knowledge is of great price, for it is placed between two Divine names; as it is written (1Samuel 2:3), ‘ A God of knowledge is the Lord,’ and therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge; for it is written (Isaiah 27:11), ‘ It is a people of no understanding, therefore He that made them will not have mercy on them.'”

Re:  “The truth will set you free.”  See again Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

Here, as in John 17:17, truth and holiness are spoken of as correlative.  The light of truth dispels the darkness in which lies the stronghold of evil.  Sin is the bondage of the powers of the soul, and this bondage is willed because the soul does not see its fearful evil.  When it perceives the truth, there comes to it a power which rouses it from its stupor, and strengthens it to break the fetters by which it has been bound.

Re:  Garry Wills.  See also The True Test of Faith, and On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story.  The latter blog-post cited a New York Times review of Wills’ book What the Gospels Meant:

Yet the paradox of modern Christianity is that the growth of biblical scholarship … has done so little to affect the mass of biblical illiterates who proclaim their convictions about what Jesus would do while knowing precious little about what he actually did or, more important, what he meant…   In this sense, Wills is a dangerous man. (E.A.)

Wills’ discussion of the “Antitheses,” Matthew Chapter 5, The Beatitudes and murder can be found in the 2009 Penguin Books paperback version, at pages 81 and 82. 

The lower image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”

On the 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019

The “nativity of Jesus” – a.k.a. Christmas – marking the birth of a new way to get to know God… 

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A Twelfth Night Feast: 'The King drinks'The last post I did was on December 14, 2018.  (My excuse is the rush of the holidays.)  So here goes:  The first post of 2019.

On that note, the full 12 Days of Christmas just ended this past Sunday, January 6:

The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season [including “Twelfth Night,” shown above left] beginning on Christmas Day … that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God.  This period is also known as Christmastide…   The Feast of the Epiphany is on 6 January [and] celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) and their bringing of gifts to the child Jesus.  In some traditions, the feast of Epiphany and Twelfth Day overlap.

See also Happy Epiphany – 2018, which noted this Feast Day has a number of different names.  Like Epiphany proper, which “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.”  It’s also known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  (Again, just to confuse things, the evening of January 5 is called Twelfth Night.)  But wait, there’s still another name for January 6.   It’s also known as Three Kings Day (As in, “We Three Kings of Orient are…”)

For more on these topics, check Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” and To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”  The “Three Wise Guys” posted noted that in its original sense – circa 600 A.D. – the term Magi meant “followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.”  Also, the consensus that there were three kings started because they brought three gifts:  Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And while a literal view of the Three Wise Men story has them getting to the manger-scene just after Jesus was born, the truth seems a bit harder to pin down.  Some say they arrived the same winter Jesus was born, while others say they came two winters after his birth.  That would explain Herod’s order – noted in Matthew 2:16–18 – that his soldiers kill “all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under.”   (Known as the “Massacre of the Innocents,” illustrated at right.)

On a more cheerful note, we’re familiar with the three wise men largely thanks to a Christmas carol,  “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”  (For an “old-timey” version see Kings College Choir, Cambridge.  Another note:  The “3 wise guys” post went into great detail on the circumcision of Jesus, leading one authority to call January 1st the time “when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.”  And about the practice dating back to ancient Egypt, whose “Book of the Dead describes the sun god Ra as having circumcised himself.”  (That “Ra guy had to be “One Tough Monkey!”)

And finally, To Epiphany – “and BEYOND” explored the issue of “sin” as sometimes held out:

[T]he concepts of sin, repentance and confession should be viewed as “tools to help us get closer to the target.”  In other words, they help us grow and develop, and are not to be used as a means of social control…  Note also that the “Biblical Greek term for sin [amartia], means ‘missing the mark,’” and implies that “one’s aim is out and that one has not reached the goal, one’s fullest potential.”

And that – after all – is what the true Christian should be working for, during these alternating seasons of celebration and reflection:  To reach his or her full potential…

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But the main thing to remember here is that this whole season celebrates the idea that Christmastide celebrates the birth of “something new under the sun.”  It celebrates the birth of a new – non-conservative – way of thinking about God.  It celebrates the birth of a new – and far easier – way to approach God.  And it celebrates the birth of a new way to get closer to God.

But as noted in Announcing a new E-book, some say conservatives are the only real Christians.  And such stick-in-the-mud Christians will likely object – e.g. – to calling the Old Testament the “Conservative Testament.”  (That Jesus had to change, to bring up to date; see the notes.)

So – just in case some conservative Christian says anyone who believes in such things is “going to hell” – we can just quote 1st John 4:15:  “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”  Also, as I’ve indicated before, in prior blogs:

If Jesus had been a conservative, we’d all be Jewish!

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jesus 88

An image from “Discovering the Jewish Jesus…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Christmas – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Adoration of the Shepherds’ (1622) by Gerard van Honthorst [which] depicts the nativity of Jesus.”

The “Twelfth  Night” image is courtesy of A Twelfth Night Feast: ‘The King drinks’ c.1661 – rct.uk.  The full blurb from the Royal Collection Trust (RCT) read:  “JAN STEEN (LEIDEN 1626-LEIDEN 1679)  A Twelfth Night Feast: ‘The King drinks’ c.1661 … Oil on panel | 40.4 x 54.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 407489.”

Re:  Christmas as “the birth of a new way to get closer to God.”  You might even call the birth of Jesus the start of a whole New Testament, and thus what might be called the Liberal Testament.  That is, the newer Testament designed “to attain the objects for which the instrument is designed and the purpose to which it is applied.”  Which would be the Bible, and it’s goal of “saving” as many people as possible.  See for example, 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think.  Rather, he is patient for your sake.  He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act.”

That would be as opposed to the Old Testament, or what might be called the “Conservative Testament.”  See for example Strict constructionism – Wikipedia, which noted in part that “strictly literal interpretations” can lead to logically-deduced absurdities.  (Leading in turn to the “doctrine of absurdity, which holds that  common sense interpretations should be preferred over a “literal reading of a law or of original intent.”)  On that note see Isaiah 66, “Whoever kills a bull is like someone who kills a person.”  How many Bible literalists would support that interpretation today?  Which leads us back to the standard notes (below), holding that “this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go ‘beyond the fundamentals.’”

Re:  “If Jesus had been a conservative, we’d all be Jewish.”  See Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?  To which might be added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”  See The Outing (Seinfeld) – Wikipedia, on the 57th episode of the sitcom, and it’s “popular catchphrase among fans.”

Re:  Christmas as “something new under the sun.”  That’s a reversal of Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;  there is nothing new under the sun.”  Which could be an apt metaphor for the whole idea of the Old Testament being conservative and the New Testament being liberal.  Then again, it would be safe to say there has never been a president like Donald Trump.  In case I’m being too subtle, he too is “something new under the sun…”

The lower image is courtesy of Discovering the Jewish Jesus – Israel – Jerusalem Post.  The article – originally dated December 7, 2005 – began:  “Jesus Christ is the most famous Jew of all time, but is today remembered as a Christian.”  The article later added:

How odd that the Jews would accept a Christian version of one of their brethren rather than seeking to discover the man entombed beneath the myth.  Like a mummy whose bandages must be removed, 2,000 years of Christian gauze must be stripped away so we may discover the Jewish Jesus.  We may do so by reading the original story of Jesus in the New Testament, before it was modified by Pauline and Lucan editors…   These Christian editors hid the real Jesus’ message of political revolution against Rome, thereby transforming him into a sound-bite-speaking do-gooder who loved the Romans and hated his people.  THE REAL Jesus was a deeply religious Jewish patriot who despised the Romans for their cruelty to his people and for their paganism.  He never once abrogated the laws of the Torah, and expressly condemned those who advocated doing so (Matt. 5:18).

See also Jesus – Wikipedia, which noted the Islamic view of Jesus:  “A major figure in Islam, [He] is considered to be a messenger of God (Allah) and the Messiah (al-Masih) who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (Bani Isra’il) with a new scripture…  Muslims regard the gospels of the New Testament as inauthentic, and believe that Jesus’ original message was lost or altered.”  And finally, “Belief in Jesus (and all other messengers of God) is a requirement for being a Muslim.  The Quran mentions Jesus by name 25 times—more often than Muhammad.”  The image at left reads:  “The name Jesus son of Mary written in Islamic calligraphy followed by Peace be upon him.”